Erlanger Theater - DEMOLISHED 2007
120 Delaware Avenue at Mohawk Street, Buffalo, NY

Erected:

1927

Interior renovation:

1959

Original owner:

Statler Hotels, Inc.

Architects:

Whitney Warren & Charles Wetmore, New York City

Style:

Renaissance Revival Style

Name origin:

After the hotel was constructed, the theater was leased to Abraham Lincoln Erlanger who gave his name to the theater

The Erlanger Theater was built by Statler Hotels, Inc. as a complement to the Statler Hotel, located directly across the street on Delaware Avenue.

The architects for the building were Warren & Wetmore, of New York City. Other buildings in New York City by the firm include Grand Central Station, New York Yacht Club, and the following hotels: old Belmont, the Ambassador, Ritz Carlton, the Commodore, Vanderbilt, and the Biltmore.

TEXT CONTINUED BENEATH PHOTOS


Click on illustrations for larger size -- and additional information

Renaissance Revival Style

Northern facade on Mohawk Street

Window surround:

Ancones supporting pediment

Adamesque panels: urn and acanthus leaves

After the hotel was constructed, the theater was leased to Buffalo born Abraham Lincoln Erlanger (1860-1930) who gave his name to the theater. John Kenrick writes the following in his Who's Who in Musicals Web site:

One of the most hated men in 20th Century show business, Erlanger and partner Marc Klaw put together a nationwide empire of legitimate theaters and vaudeville houses. In 1896, they formed the Theatrical Syndicate, which gave them monopolistic control of the bookings for almost every theater in the USA. .Over the next sixteen years, they set the rates and handled access to more than 700 houses. Their shameless greed made them countless enemies.

On the up side, Erlanger built some of Broadway's finest theaters, including The New Amsterdam and The St. James (originally called The Erlanger). He also financed dozens of important productions, including George M. Cohan's "Forty-Five Minutes From Broadway" (1906) and the early editions of producer Florenz Ziegfeld's "Follies."

Erlanger reserved his most creative efforts for two pursuits business and cruelty. He made and destroyed careers with impunity, and was quoted as saying, "I never trust a man I can't buy." Even the formidable Ziegfeld was reluctant to cross swords with him. Erlanger's heartlessness eventually opened the way to his own destruction. When theater owner Sam Shubert died in a train wreck, Erlanger refused to abide by any legal agreements "with a dead man." Sam's outraged brothers Lee and Jacob swore vengeance, and over the next few decades battled the Syndicate into virtual extinction. Even more ruthless than Erlanger, they left the former tyrant a powerless, broken man in his later years.

The theater sat 1,500 patrons.

Some of the best known performers appeared in productions at the Erlanger, including Basil Rathbone, Buffalo's own Katharine Cornell, Helen Hayes, Lilian Gish, Barry Fitrzgerald, Orson Welles, Tullulah Bankhead, Beatrice Lillie, George M. Cohan, Ed Wynn, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, Cecil Hardwicke, Gloria Swanson, Ethel Waters, Katherine Hepburn, and all the Barrymores, Paul Roberson, Maurice Evans, Judith Anderson, and Jose Ferrer,

The theater closed in 1956, leaving Buffalo without a professional theater. A Rochester purchaser scheduled it for demolition. In 1959, Darwin R. Martin (son ofDarwin D. Martin) purchased the building and gutted the theater's interior, and the building has been used for commercial purposes ever since.

When this Web page was created, in October of 2003, the building was scheduled for demolition for a federal court building.


Sources:

See also: Highlights of Buffalo's History, 1927


Photos and their arrangement © 2003 Chuck LaChiusa
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